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Commenting on the First Minister’s announcement that it is planned for schools in Scotland to start to open more widely for younger and senior phase pupils from 22 February, Dr Patrick Roach, General Secretary of the NASUWT-The Teachers’ Union, said:

“We share the ambition for all children and young people to return to face-to-face schooling as soon as it is safe to do so. However, the First Minister has stated that the situation regarding the virus remains severe. Extreme caution is needed before lifting the current lockdown measures so that progress in reducing levels of virus transmission is not allowed to unravel.

“The Scottish Government must now come forward with a package of enhanced safety measures for schools, over and above the control measures which were in place last term.

“A package of measures will be needed to secure the confidence of parents and the workforce and should include mandatory guidance on Covid safe working practices in schools that is backed up with inspection and enforcement measures to ensure compliance.

“The safety of teachers with underlying health conditions or who are clinically extremely vulnerable must also be assured, and the introduction of rotas should also be introduced to provide for effective social distancing.

“Giving priority to teachers and other education staff to Coronavirus vaccinations would also be an important step in reducing the risk of further disruption to pupils’ education.

“Health and safety must remain the prime consideration and everything that can be done must be done to safeguard the welfare of children, young people and school staff.”
 
Jane Peckham, NASUWT National Official Scotland, said:

“The First Minister stated that the plan is for a part time return for senior phase pupils to do practical work necessary for completion of courses.

“Schools will need clear guidance about what constitutes 'essential practical work' to ensure pupils only attend where it is absolutely necessary and where such work cannot be competed remotely.

“Teachers will be concerned about the safety and workload implications of this plan in a context where they teach across multiple classes and with schools still being open for key worker and vulnerable pupils.

“At primary level, the NASUWT will be insisting on the publication of the detailed scientific evidence that has been considered in determining the appropriateness of a full return for P1-3 given the virtual impossibility of physical distancing with younger age pupils.

“It will be vital that ministers work with schools and education unions on the detail of plans across all age groups so that safety is not compromised.”

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